Antisemitism in the UK Labour Party

There have been incidents of Antisemitism in the UK's Labour Party since its formation, including canards about "Jewish finance" during the Second Boer War and antisemitic comments from leading Labour politician Ernest Bevin. In the 2000s, there were controversies over comments made by Labour politicians about an alleged "Jewish lobby", a comparison by former London Labour politician Ken Livingstone of a Jewish journalist to a Holocaust concentration camp guard, and a 2005 Labour attack on Jewish Conservative Party politician Michael Howard.

After Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the party in September 2015, there were growing allegations of antisemitism in the party. After comments by Labour MP Naz Shah (from 2014) were revealed and Ken Livingstone in 2016 resulted in their suspension from membership pending investigation, Corbyn established the Chakrabarti Inquiry, which concluded that the party was not "overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism", although there was an "occasionally toxic atmosphere" and "clear evidence of ignorant attitudes". The Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons held an inquiry into antisemitism in the UK in the same year and found "no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party", though the leadership's lack of action "risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic".

In 2017, Labour Party rules were changed to make hate speech, including antisemitism, a disciplinary matter. In 2018, Corbyn was challenged for, in 2012, in response to a Facebook post from the artist, asking why Freedom for Humanity, an allegedly antisemitic mural, was going to be removed and for having been a member of Facebook groups, mainly pro-Palestinian, containing antisemitic posts. In July of that year, Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) adopted a definition of antisemitism, for disciplinary purposes, that included the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition, with modified examples relating to how criticism of Israel could stray into antisemitism. In September of that year, the NEC added all 11 IHRA examples, unamended, to the definition of antisemitism, and included them in the Party's code of conduct.

In May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced an inquiry into whether Labour had "unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish". In April 2020, a 860-page report by the party into its handling of antisemitism concluded that there was "no evidence" that antisemitism complaints were treated any differently than other forms of complaint, or of current or former staff being "motivated by antisemitic intent". In October 2020, the EHRC published its report, finding that the party was "responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination". The EHRC found that there were 23 instances of political interference by staff from the leader's office and others and that Labour had breached the Equality Act in two cases. Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party and had the party whip removed on 29 October 2020 "for a failure to retract" his assertion that the scale of antisemitism within Labour had been overstated by opponents.

Quotes edit

Quotes are in chronological order.

2011 edit

  • [On Raed Salah's UK travel ban evasion in 2011] The radical cleric came to Britain to give a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the invitation of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a group of Left-wing Labour MPs and union leaders including Jeremy Corbyn, John Austin and Bob Crow.
    Mr Corbyn told the Standard: "I can't see how the police missed him at Conway Hall, he was speaking from the platform. It all sounds rather Inspector Clouseau."
    The MP for Islington North also rejected criticism of his decision to invite Mr Salah to Britain, adding: "He is recognised as an important figure in Israel and if there is to be any kind of peace process he will have to be part of the dialogue.
    "We checked him out and he denied completely that he was an anti-Semite so we thought it was appropriate to bring him over."
    In 2008 Mr Salah was charged with incitement to violence and racism by a Jerusalem court over a speech in which he invoked what is known as the "blood libel" - a notorious anti-Semitic slur.
    He was said to have accused Jewish people of using children's blood to bake bread.
    Afterwards, the 1,000-strong crowd rioted. Mr Salah was released from prison in 2005 after serving two years for raising millions for Palestinian terror group Hamas.

2015 edit

  • If Mr Corbyn is not to be regarded from the day of his election as an enemy of Britain’s Jewish community, he has a number of questions which he must answer in full and immediately. The JC asked him earlier this week to respond. No response has been forthcoming.
    1. Did you donate, as alleged by its founder, to Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a group that publishes open antisemitism, run by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen — an organisation so extreme that even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign refuses to associate with it? ...
    4. Why did you write to the Church of England authorities to defend Rev Stephen Sizer, a vicar banned from social media because of his habit of posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, telling them that Rev Sizer was "under attack" because he had "dared to speak out over Zionism"? ...
    7. Why did you describe Raed Salah, a man convicted of the blood libel, as an "honoured citizen"?
    • "The key questions Jeremy Corbyn must answer", The Jewish Chronicle (12 August 2015).
    • Corbyn was interviewed by Channel 4 News in August 2015 following The Jewish Chronicle article: "I have no contact now whatsoever with Paul Eisen and Deir Yassin Remembered. I did attend a number of events concerning Deir Yassin Remembered some years ago, I think two or three of them." He also said: "Fifteen years ago [Eisen] was not a Holocaust denier [...] Had he been a Holocaust denier, I would have had absolutely nothing to do with him." According to Corbyn, any donations to DYR would have amounted to throwing coins in a bucket at a meeting.

2016 edit

  • [A] few days before May 5th, when a set of local and mayoral contests across the country would present Corbyn with his first electoral test as leader, questions about rising anti-Semitism within the Party broke into the open. On April 26th, Naz Shah, a Muslim M.P. from Bradford, who was elected in 2015, admitted sharing Facebook posts the previous year that suggested that Israelis should be "relocated" to the U.S. "Problem solved," she wrote. Another post showed Martin Luther King, Jr., with the quote "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal," under the hashtag #ApartheidIsrael.
    Shah was suspended from Labour, but the next morning Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London and a Corbyn ally, gave a bizarre radio interview defending her. "It's completely over the top, but it’s not anti-Semitic," Livingstone said. "Let's remember when Hitler won his election in 1932—his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism." The chaos was complete when Livingstone, a renegade figure of the old left, who has made anti-Semitic remarks before, was confronted on the stairs of the BBC’s Westminster studio by another Labour M.P., John Mann, who accused him of being a "Nazi apologist." The exchange was captured on video and within minutes was the lead item on British news.

2018 edit

  • Time and time again, we have seen incidents of antisemitism within the Labour Party. Members saying "Jews kill and kidnap their way around the world", saying children are put through a "holocaust indoctrination programme" and the Holocaust Educational Trust’s logo photoshopped to read “Zionist Fairy Tales”. Sickening and hurtful.
  • Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with antisemites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left's obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, Jews expressed sincere and profound fears as to how such politics would impact upon their wellbeing. Our concerns were never taken seriously. Three years on, the Party and British Jews are reaping the consequences.
  • Why would the leader of a mainstream political party declare that he is opposed to antisemitism? The answer, in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, is that otherwise it would be impossible to tell.
  • I'm sure Corbyn is sincere in his belief that he is a principled opponent of antisemitism. It just happens not to be true.
  • [T]he really damaging evidence was heard from several Jewish Labour members of Parliament on a dramatic recent afternoon in the Commons. Dame Margaret Hodge is a much-respected veteran MP, daughter of Jewish refugees (twice over, fleeing Germany and then Egypt), and niece of an uncle murdered at Auschwitz. "I have never felt as nervous and frightened as I feel today about being a Jew," she said on April 17 [2018]. "It feels that my party has given permission for anti-Semitism to go unchallenged." More chilling still was Ruth Smeeth's account. She said that she used to expect crazy Jew-hate mail from the right, but now it comes from the left as well, by way of social media: "Hang yourself you vile treacherous Zionist Tory filth, you're a cancer of humanity…Zionist hag bitch Ruth Smeeth." While Labour MPs loudly applauded Hodge, Smeeth, and their colleagues, Corbyn didn't stay to hear the debate, which was an unmistakable condemnation of his leadership.
  • Today, Britain’s three leading Jewish newspapers – Jewish News, Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph – take the unprecedented step of speaking as one by publishing the same front page.
    We do so because of the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government. We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel.
  • Under its adapted guidelines, a Labour Party member is free to claim Israel's existence is a racist endeavour and compare Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany, unless "intent" – whatever that means – can be proved. "Dirty Jew" is wrong, "Zionist bitch" fair game?
    In so doing, Labour makes a distinction between racial anti-Semitism targeting Jews (unacceptable) and political anti-Semitism targeting Israel (acceptable).
  • Two weeks ago, the Jewish Labour Movement—affiliated to the Labour Party—achieved a seemingly impossible task. It managed to get 68 British rabbis—many of whom do not even recognize each other as rabbis—to write a joint letter condemning the party for having "ignored the Jewish community."
  • Hardliners around Corbyn, such as his director of strategy, Seamus Milne, see the old IHRA code as threatening to silence those who wish to expose the true nature of the Israeli state. Conversely, most in the Jewish community believe that living inside this type of criticism is the foul virus of anti-Semitism. And, in a break from their tradition of discretion, they have been willing to say so, loudly.
  • Corbyn has been paid to make propaganda on Press TV in English for the Iranian regime; he has used that platform to say that he sees "the hand of Israel" behind Jihadi terrorism in Egypt when we know that it is Iran which finances Jihadi terrorism across the region; he has used that platform to complain that the BBC is biased, in particular in favour of the view that Israel has the right to exist; as though there was something inappropriate about that.
  • Corybn famously referred to Hamas and Hezbollah [as] "friends", but more damningly, in the same speech, he judged those Jew-hating organisations to be dedicated to peace, to the good of the Palestinian people, and to political and social justice. If somebody claimed that the KKK was dedicated to the good of the US South, we would have no problem in reading that as a statement of political support for the Klan.

2019 edit

  • I am sick of being tainted by the stain of Labour antisemitism. I am increasingly concerned that Labour's disciplinary committees are turning a blind eye to hatred towards Jews. It is so damaging to Labour's standing for the row over antisemitism to rumble on week after week. This is not the party I joined.
  • There can be no hypocrisy or double-standards when it comes to Jewish people in the Labour Party. We demand equal treatment, freedom from hatred and a concerted effort from the party's leadership to stamp out antisemitism.
  • There was something particularly moving — and shocking — about watching the heavily pregnant Jewish MP Luciana Berger announce that she was leaving Labour because she was "embarrassed and ashamed" to be a member of a party that she had concluded was "institutionally antisemitic". This brave politician has been the subject of appalling abuse from the hard left, culminating in the attempt to deselect her weeks before giving birth. Labour is supposed to be the party of equality, fairness and human rights yet one of its most high-profile Jewish women has been hounded out by racists and the leader and his supporters do not care.
  • [presenter Niall Patterson:] We just mentioned Luciana Berger. Do you think it's entirely appropriate to talk about Goebellian propaganda where we've got a Jewish Labour MP leaving because of antisemitism?
    [George Galloway:] I don’t believe she's leaving because of antisemitism. I believe you want people to believe that, and the Goebbels is you, and the Times and the other organs that are pumping out this foul slander against the Labour party and knowing that it's untrue.

2020 edit

  • Passover is also a fitting moment for me to acknowledge the pain and hurt that the Labour Party has caused Jewish people in recent years Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party. I have seen first-hand the unacceptable and unimaginable levels of grief and distress it has caused many in the Jewish community and beyond. It is why my very first act on becoming leader over the weekend was to apologise for the hurt that has been caused. I want to apologise again and reiterate my pledge to tear out this poison by its roots.
  • The principle of what I want to achieve is clear: if you are anti-Semitic, you cannot and should not be in the Labour Party. No ifs, no buts.
  • The German right explained its defeat in the Great War by accusing social democrats and Jews of sabotage. It said Germany would have won but that it had been stabbed in the back by alien forces pretending to be Germans, behind its own lines.
    The Corbynites have created a "stab in the back myth" of their own. If it had not been for Zionists and liberals behind the Labour lines, Corbyn would now be PM.
  • [On the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into the Labour Party] The verdict the commission delivered last week was striking in its gravity and lack of equivocation. Sometimes, such bodies wrap their conclusions in language that is opaque or ambiguous. But the EHRC wrote as if it wished not to be misunderstood. "We have concluded that there were unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible ... [O]ur analysis points to a culture within the Party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it."
  • The day after publication, I spoke with EHRC executive director Alastair Pringle, who told me that he and his fellow commissioners had been appalled by the cases they had seen: "There were hundreds of them and they were absolutely atrocious: the language, the behavior, it was shocking. The words used to describe Jewish people: we found it quite shocking."
  • Every time Corbyn had a chance to draw a line under this past, to try to make amends, he refused to take it. The EHRC report says explicitly that Corbyn’s Labour Party could have tackled the anti-Semitism problem "if the leadership had chosen to do so," yet it did not. Days before the election defeat in 2019, a BBC interviewer repeatedly invited Corbyn to apologize to the Jewish community for the hurt Labour had inflicted: he declined to do so every time.

2024 edit

  • Sir Keir [Starmer], as shadow Brexit secretary, helped to legitimise Corbyn, who, so Sir Keir assured us in February 2019 "would make a great Prime Minister". On the Andrew Marr Show, it was suggested that Corbyn might be a danger to the Jewish community, but Sir Keir responded, "I don’t accept that", even though one poll had shown that 40 per cent of British Jews would have considered leaving the country had Corbyn entered No 10. Did Sir Keir really believe what he was saying?
  • [A] bold decision, basically to throw away a parliamentary seat.
  • I think the Jewish community, as it reflects, will take quite a lot of comfort from the fact that Sir Keir Starmer has been prepared to do that.

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